Tag Archives: Malaysia

Surely for the Grand occasion

When I first heard that Jeep Grand Cherokee was picked as the “Premium SUV of the Year” at last year’s illustrious New Straits Times-Maybank Car of the Year Awards, I knew I had to get my hands on it. But that alone was no easy feat as the rest of the nation’s “car boys” were equally eager to see for themselves what the fuss was about.

After all, in the rapidly popular SUV arena occupied by more accustomed European brands as well as the fast growing Asian marques, to hear that this lesser known American car maker had topped its counterparts was indeed an eye-opener.

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Let’s start off stating what would undeniably be on almost everyone’s mind when they first hear of its price tag: “At RM439,000 (on-the-road price including insurance for the Grand Cherokee Overland), it’s rather steep.”

I admit that my first impression of its unpretentious exterior and under-fitted interior did not help to ease the apprehension of this premium-class sports utility vehicle. Like many, I had hinged my expectations on its price tag and was guilty of focusing on what I did not see rather than what it could deliver. Yet indeed, deliver this baby did, and in truly grand fashion!

Pumped by an energetic 3.6 litre V6 heart, which delivers 284hp at 6,350 rpm and 347Nm at 4,300rpm, the Grand Cherokee Overland comes out as a genuine American thoroughbred. But it is the effortless 8-speed automatic transmission that allows the driver to truly appreciate the near perfect synergy of performance and handling.

Unlike some of its more prevalent peers that seems to struggle in adjusting their paddle-shift transmission’s ratio to seamlessly fit Malaysian driving conditions, Jeep seemed to have got this right with the Grand Cherokee as it serves up smooth manual shifting usability when quick acceleration is required.

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Running surprisingly quiet on two pairs of 20-inch polished wheels, the car emerged sleeker than its stable mates with a smoothed-edged silhouette, aerodynamic spoiler and modern front grille, although the front Bi-xenon headlamps and projector fog lamps could do with a tad more bulk.

However, as said, this is one ride that has all its secret weapons beneath the shell. As I zipped across the North-South Expressway from Kuala Lumpur to Penang in the dark and in the torrential rain, the car’s intense fog lamps and adaptive automatic concentrated headlamps, which self-adjust up to 15 degrees to illuminate the road around corners, were a delight.

It is the informative and meticulous full-colour leather-trimmed instrument panel that kept my fingers busy for extended periods throughout my time behind the wheels. The customisable 7-inch multiview TFT display allows you to view the car’s GPS navigation system, access the entertainment channels, monitor vehicle performance, check your tire pressure, choose the five available traction control system and more importantly, receive visual notifications of safety applications.

Housed within the user-friendly 8.4-inch touchscreen multimedia unit is a comprehensive navigation system tagged with one-step voice destination entry and high-definition nine-speaker audio system and USB/SD slots. Passengers will have no problems with connectivity via the standard iPod mobile device integration and hands-free Bluetooth connectivity and voice command.

For a family trip with the kid’s plethora of provisions and toys, my overflowing golf set, our luggage and not forgetting the missus’ heaps of snacks and dietary needs, the rear cargo area, which provides up to 1,943 litres of storage, was a joy to have. It is no slouch either when it comes to towing as it has a capacity to tow up to 3,267kg of practically anything you want.

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The designer’s attention to details is what sets the Grand Cherokee apart. Exceptionally spacious for up to five passengers, its premium-quality soft Nappa leather trimmed seats stays comfortable in both hot and cold weather conditions. If that’s not lux enough for you, then the combo of heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel – yes you read it right – will surely do the trick.

For a touch of “awesomeness”, the car is fitted with an automatic air suspension system that features five vehicle height settings that enables a clearance up to a maximum of 24.7cm higher, as well as automatically lowers the car when speed exceeds 88 km/h, thus increasing vehicle stability.

Oh, amid all these impressive gizmos and features, did I forget to mention that the Jeep Grand Cherokee comes standard with push start button, keyless entry and my personal favourite, a stretched out dual-pane panoramic sunroof?

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Keeping you safe

There are over 70 available safety and security features with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, including:

  • Advanced, multistage driver and front-passenger airbags
  • Supplemental side-curtain airbags
  • Side guard door beams
  • Front park assist
  • Rear back up camera and rear park assist
  • Hill start assist
  • Electronic stability control
  • Electronic roll mitigation
  • Anti-lock brake system
  • Brake assist
  • All-speed traction control

 


On the Longitude of adventure

My first reaction when I first laid eyes on the Jeep Cherokee Longitude was, “This does not look like a Jeep!” For 75 years, Jeep has always been famed for its military-grade toughness, terrain versatility and reliability; styling and luxury were never its chief concerns; that is until the latest Cherokee variants came along.

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Two months after my stint with the rugged Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the well-appointed Longitude. Offered in two variants – the other being the more adventurous Trailhawk – the latest Cherokee is Jeep’s mid-size SUV that has cleverly combined user sophistication with leading off-road competencies.

Starting from its customary intimidating seven-slot chrome grille at the front, the car’s exterior boasts of a modern and sleek silhouette that stands proudly alongside other luxury-orientated brands, before flowing through to an aerodynamic-designed rear tailgate.

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A supporting cast of 18-inch polished aluminium wheels, stern-looking headlamps, LED daytime running lights, Bi-Xenon projector fog lamps and LED tail lamps gives the car the type of sleekness and elegance previously missing from its stable.

Yet, it is under the hood of the RM358,278 priced Longitude that truly earn its keep. Powered by a 2.4 litre 16-valve engine and piloted by a speed-sensitive electronic power steering system, it performed sturdily and effortlessly within the city roads. On the longer stretches while the ride stays smooth and quiet, the power somewhat trails off a notch.

With the engine impeccably mated to a distinctive 9-speed automatic transmission, it can get up to 13.2km per litre on petrol consumption. Due to its extended gear range, city folks going through the traffic crawl will unlikely be able to truly experience driving in the highest gear available.

CHR_4035Beneath the chassis, the powertrain features a class-leading disconnecting rear axle – the axle seamlessly switches between two- and four-wheel drive without driver input – for maximum fuel efficiency with minimal emission production while providing superior 4WD performance. Together with two pairs of finely tuned front and rear independent suspensions, the vehicle is a master at handling speed breakers and poorly maintained roads.

Cherokee’s Selec-Terrain traction control system with five customisable modes – auto, snow, sport, sand/mud and rock – keep the ride stable and ensure competent traction control on any roads or weather conditions.

Once inside, the Longitude’s stretched dual-pane sunroof was easily my favourite feature. It offers wide-open views, a rather exceptional experience for car owners and passengers who are familiar with the standard sunroofs in the market.

Although it does not possess the full complement of features one would expect from its price point, this model comes with many handy widgets that is guaranteed to keep a new owner busy for several days, including high-resolution 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation, USB and SD-card slots, Bluetooth connectivity with hands-free phone, streaming audio, voice command and text message, Alpine sound system with nine amplified speakers and subwoofer, ambient led interior lighting, 8-way control driver seat, remote start system and keyless entry with push start ignition.

P1020099In front of the driver is a customisable high-definition instrument cluster that can be controlled on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. At the back, it is sensibly fitted with a central air vents for the back row, which has to be a standard feature for cars in this increasingly hot and humid country.

Leg space and storage capacity is visibly one of its key selling points, highlighted by its exceptional Cargo Management System that includes a 60/40 split folding back row and a fold-flat front passenger seat.

For me it was the in-seat storage compartment on – yes, on and not under – the front passenger seat that did the trick, as it came in handy for me when keeping my personal belongings away from prying eyes when I am on the football field or zipping into the grocery shop.

The Longitude may well have raised the bar for its peers when it comes to safety, as the vehicle offers more than 70 safety and security features including seven airbags encompassing rear seat side airbags, all-row side-curtain airbags, driver knee bag and front seat-mounted side airbags. It also comes with rear park assist, electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation and anti-theft engine immobilizer.

At the end of my weekend date with the Jeep Cherokee Longitude, I returned home much like a loves-struck teenager; enthralled by her looks, highly infatuated with her performance and eager for the next date.


Unlimited adventure by an iconic 4WD

Having driven through a World War and after several decades of legendary supporting roles in countless Hollywood blockbusters, this four-wheel-drive continues to be on most men’s “must-drive” bucket list.    

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Growing up with black-and-white combat movie flicks and later being madly consumed by the heroics of MacGyver, I cannot be faulted for my never-ending grin when I received confirmation of a weekend fling with a Jeep four-wheel drive ride.

Over the last two decades, mostly during my journalism career, I had driven sport cars to the limit, enjoyed the finest luxury vehicles, and got myself lost – twice – in the jungles of Borneo with only a mud-covered four-wheel drive and packets of instant noodles for company. But none of these experiences involved a Jeep Wrangler; the palm-sized diecast plastic army-green military vehicle I slept with throughout my early years, which I vowed I will one day get my hands on the real thing.

For all those dreamers out there, let’s first get any false hopes out of the way. The Jeep Wrangler is not designed to be modish nor built for a relaxed city drive. Seated on top of old-school solid axles at both ends together with heavy-duty monotube shock absorbers, the retro-styled vehicle comes out rather bumpy with a steering seemingly detached from the road with its share of body roll during sharp turns. And particularly during this year-end monsoon season, the cabin inside can be rather noisy during a downpour.

Its features and fittings, particularly the four-door Wrangler Unlimited Sahara variant which I had, is seemingly unadorned when compared to the current generation of 4WDs that are mostly created to allow city dwellers to theatrically project their adventurous side. There is no fin-shaped antenna, keyless entry and push-button start, rearview camera or 10-way seat adjustments to show off to your friends.

Yet for those like me, it is exactly these types of throwback sensations that make this trail-ready ride great. The real fun starts when you bring this rugged off-roader into nature for a wet and wild weekend. Supported by an extended wheelbase of four 18-inch polished satin carbon wheels accompanied by antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, the Wrangler Unlimited is driven by an imposing 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that serves up 284 hp and delivers up to 347 Nm of torque.

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Jeep’s Command Trac 4WD system splits torque 50/50 to the front and rear axles for off-roading or conditions where more traction is required, while the main case joint is clamped by 18 bolts for added structural stiffness. Combined with its electronic roll mitigation and electronic stability control, the 4WD allows the driver to be in complete control during the most demanding conditions.

The Wrangler Unlimited’s raised chassis has the capability to safely manage in up to 508 mm of water, offers up to 25 cm of ground clearance, has a 42.2-degree approach angle and a 32.1-degree departure angle, along with a 25.8-degree breakover angle.

Managed by a five-speed automatic transmission which takes it from zero to 100 km/h in approximately 8.8 seconds – commendable considering its bulk and box like shape – this variant is capable of towing up 2,000 kg when properly equipped.

First introduced back in 1941 during World War II, the early Jeep featured a gearshift on the steering column, two circular instrument clusters on the dashboard and a hand brake on the left side. Today, these artless pieces have been replaced with automatic headlamps, steering wheel controls, height-adjustable driver seat, heated power mirrors, cruise control, power windows, auto-dimming rearview mirror and under-hood insulation. But gladly, the iconic seven-slot grille remains.

There are numerous features that will please the sheltered city folks’ palate. While the Alpine premium audio systems with nine speakers – four 6.5-inch speakers, two weather-resistant tweeters and an all-weather subwoofer – is easily the main attraction, there are also the CD/DVD /MP3 player, leather upholstery, heated front seats leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, hard disk drive, a USB port, voice controls, front airbags and hill start assist to tinker with. The Wrangler Unlimited Sahara also comes in 10 options of colours for discerning owners to choose from.

I particularly found the centre console’s lockable dual-stage storage facility very handy, especially when we had to keep our phones, wallets and keys secured when the family’s out for a quick dip at the waterfall. Out from the wet and straight onto a pair of heated front seats, what more can one ask for?

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The most fun I had, to my sun fearing wife’s detriment, was undoubtedly the easily removable three-piece hard top. As I cannot recall any other vehicle that allows the driver to effortlessly remove not only the roof but the doors too, driving around looking cool like in MacGyver with no anxiety over the sudden rainfall makes it all worthwhile as the simple snaps made locking and unlocking the roof pieces fast and simple.

Much to my surprise, the fully-imported Wrangler Unlimited was clearly not found lacking in cabin space. Even with two long-legged adults in front, the back row comfortably seats three, including a child safety seat, while offering over 70.6 cubic feet of ample storage with the 60/40 split rear bench seat folded in.

At the end of the brief but truly enjoyable weekend affair with the RM328,899 (on-the-road without insurance) Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, I am glad to have fulfilled a boyhood dream of getting behind the wheels of a Jeep Wrangler and marking off another item from my bucket list.

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Roll on, not roll over

Electronic stability control senses when you begin to over- or under-steer and applies individual brakes and controls your throttle as needed to help put you back on track. Electronic roll mitigation determines when a rollover may occur and applies braking force to help reduce the likelihood of such an accident.

Additionally, Wrangler Unlimited offers all-speed traction control with special calibrations for driving in 4LO, a brake assist system and a four-wheel disc antilock brake system for improving vehicle control and decreasing stopping distances on both dry and slippery surfaces.


Keeping guests in the know

Beyond providing a good night’s sleep, this award-winning hotel is also keeping guests connected to the country’s wide array of attractions and rich cultural heritage.

3013709It has only been a short four years since InterContinental Kuala Lumpur first opened its doors, yet it has already chalked up an impressive list of awards and industry recognition.

Aside from being blessed with a strategic location at the heart of the city with the iconic Petronas Twin Towers as its backdrop and several of the finest dining outlets in town, what makes the hotel truly stands out is their effort to keep their hotel guests “in the know”.

      Having accumulated my fair share of hotel accommodation over the years, I have always been infuriated by hoteliers who do not possess sufficient awareness of their own hotel facilities and services, let alone show any interest for tourism-related information and knowledge of the hotel’s surrounding areas.

But that’s clearly not the case with the InterContinental Kuala Lumpur team during my recent weekend stay there. Be it the steward at the concierge desk of the lobby, the manager at the Japanese restaurant or the supervisor at the spa, the staff are evidently well-informed of not just their own hotel operations, but also amply knowledgeable of their work and the respective industry’s development.

3013712“While we believe that high quality, understated service and outstanding facilities are important, what makes us different is the genuine interest we show in our guests,” says InterContinental Kuala Lumpur general manager Hafidh Al-Busaidy.

He adds: “Every day, we connect them to the things that make their destination special, sharing our local knowledge with them and helping them enjoy the authentic experiences that enrich their life and broaden their outlook.”

Al-Busaidy’s team label this as the “In the Know” programme. Associated with its brand positioning, they believed that theirs is the only hotel brand that goes out of its way to share its knowledge with guests.

At the front of this is a professional concierge team where the well-trained personnel share their knowledge to give guests the insider’s view of the place they wish to visit and the latest updates on local attractions and information, particularly around the capital city.

The programme also focuses on adding value to those who uses the hotel’s meeting and banquet facilities by providing support such as venue options for coffee breaks, outdoor meeting locations and speakers recommendations. The hotel has a pillarless grand ballroom that can accommodate 1,300 guests and a junior ballroom catering up to 230 guests, in addition to eight smaller function rooms accommodating 30 to 70 people.

Getting more personal space

Not one to rest on their laurels, the hotel recently spent US$2 mil (RM7.4 mil) to upgrade its Club InterContinental facility, which now features a new mezzanine level to accommodate additional private boardroom, a discreet library corner and a bathroom with separate shower facilities for departure guests. Having expanded from 50 persons to 100 persons, the premier club lounge is available exclusively for guests staying in the club rooms and suites.

“Starting from the arrival, the dramatic and bejewelled design is seen reflected throughout the myriad of spaces, bestowing a feeling of understated and refined luxury. Club InterContinental and the rooms are made with the contemporary and comfortable concept in mind,” explains Al-Busaidy, who has been with the InterContinental Hotels Group for more than 28 years.

3013694Another significant investment totalling RM3 mil was capitalised at the hotel’s event space where the two ballrooms and eight meeting rooms were fitted with upgraded audio-visual amenities, new high-resolution LCD projectors, HDMI cables, Wi-Fi connectivity, increased motorised screens and programmable LED lightings to create ambiance to suit every function requirement. Three new coffee break stations were also added to the enhancement offering locally inspired coffee breaks.

The hotel has 473 spacious, stylishly designed Deluxe, Premier, Grand Premier Rooms, Club Intercontinental and suites, including 110 newly refurbished Grand Premier Rooms designed to cater to sophisticated business and leisure travellers.

Specially designed to enhance spaciousness and to provide the ultimate deluxe experience through simple yet elegant design, the 42 sq metre room is equipped with multi-device high-speed wireless and wired Internet access, digital audio hub and new plush bedding up to super-king sized beds.

Amid the occasional visible remnants from its predecessor, the earthy coloured refurbished room exhibits warm and relaxing tones highlighted by plush fabrics and convenient furnishings. The well-lit accommodation feature an iPod docking station, a modern glass work desk and ergonomic chair with desk-level multi-media hub that include a DVD player and an adjustable 40 inch flat screen LED TV, along with international sockets and wireless high-speed broadband Internet access.

“The refurbishment demonstrates the owner’s and InterContinental Kuala Lumpur’s commitment to continuously deliver outstanding facilities in line with the latest trends and innovations that position us competitively with other hotels,” says the United Kingdom-born hotelier.

On the technology front, the hotel’s latest adoptions include electronic folios for registration, and billing transactions, as well as the industry leading IHG application available on Apple and Android devices for guests to book and manage their stays in any IHG hotel brands.

“This latest technology trend is also in line with our group-wide sustainability programme initiative, IHG Green Engage. We have also engaged a new partner to help us increase our internet bandwidth, all guest are entitled up to 3MB of complimentary internet bandwidth,” Al-Busaidy points out.

3013688Cooking up a reputation

It is not just the new facilities that are raking up the credit points for the hotel; its culinary team is also cooking up a storm amongst food connoisseurs. It recently launched the InterContinental Kuala Lumpur World Celebrity Chef Series 2015 where celebrity guest chefs are invited to share their gourmet skills. The first session featured South Korean celebrity chef Edward Kwon.

In addition, the hotel’s own award-winning chefs appear at the Master Chef’s Table and Cooking Class Series 2015, showcasing a different chef every month with recipes from Malay, Chinese, Japanese and Western cuisine.

Each night over at Serena Brasserie, guests are treated to a sumptuous buffet spread of Malaysian food delight – World of Curries on Monday, Hawker’s Delights on Tuesday, Lok Lok Fare on Wednesdays, Meat Lovers on Thursday, and Seafood Galore on Fridays and Saturdays. Brunch with seafood and BBQ are served on Sundays.

With a panoramic view of the lobby’s waterfall and lush garden landscape beyond its floor-to-ceiling glass windows, this all-day dining outlet It offers a totally relaxing and spacious dining ambience to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring a lavish buffet spread of international choices, Japanese specialties and all-time local favourites.

3013685Its award-winning Tatsu Japanese Cuisine restaurant displays a contemporary and simplistic design across the main dining area, along with teppanyaki corner, sushi bar, lounge, semi-private dining and private dining rooms. With a seating capacity of 147 seats, the upscale Japanese restaurant brings a sophisticated twist to the traditional dining experience as it combines a subtle blend of Japanese aesthetics with contemporary yet minimalist design.

Even though I am not the biggest admirer of Japanese food around, I did however find myself rather taken in by some of the dishes, particularly the chef’s speciality of special crab Maki with almond sauce. Presented in a sushi roll encompassing eel, avocado and deep fried sushi shell crab, it was really crispy with the almond sauce helping to cloak the raw taste.

Along with the freshly served Namban pickled Atlantic salmon, another must try is the Tatsu volcanic stone grilled wagyu beef served with Tatsu spicy dip as meat lovers will enjoy the tender and juicy meat perfectly blended with the dip.

To complete the dining experience, I would strongly recommend the raspberry chocolate mousse mingled with almond Dacquiose, Rhubard apricot compote and topped off with rose scented brulee ice-cream. Simple in presentation, yet it is the minimally sufficient dash of sweetness and soft New Zealand ice-cream that truly melts your heart.

3013718For sake and wine connoisseurs, the restaurant features a private sake bar surrounded by floor- to-ceiling glass windows that offers a breathtaking view of the beautifully landscaped garden and cascading waterfall. The bar serves more than 20 types of sake, shochu and wines whilst Tatsu’s Sushi Bar displays an abundance of the freshest seafood flown in twice a week from Japan.

Another of its award-winning restaurant, the Tao Chinese Cuisine showcases a menu, which epitomises executive chef Wong Lian You’s style that creatively blends traditional items with a modern presentation. With more than 15 years of culinary experience under his belt, the award-winning chef constantly reinvents and creates new dishes; preferring vivid seasonal flavours and ingredients that are rich in colour and aroma set to impress discerning taste buds.

It would be a grave sin if you dine in this place without starting off with its invigorating Tao black tea, which is created from its own signature blend infused with essential rose oils for a refreshing. My personal favourite dishes here include the fried Canadian oysters served with mango salsa dressing, and baked cod fillet accompanied by pomelo spicy plum sauce.

For a refreshing respite to the day’s activities, drop by OneSixFive Lounge and Bar, fringed by a tropical garden and a cascading waterfall. The lounge offers a wide variety of handcrafted cocktails, iced teas, tapas style snacks, afternoon tea with 20 varieties of teas and an extensive range of cigars. There is also Bentley’s Pub, a traditional English-style watering hole that offers a variety of beers on tap, wine by the glass and cocktails to unwind for the day.

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In a club of its own

Designed by P49 Deesign, Thailand’s prominent interior design company, Club InterContinental was fashioned to reflect the needs of today’s executive traveller where functionality and style merges into a contemporary aesthetic. Placed on the 26th floor of the hotel, the lounge radiates elegance, thanks to the 17.8 ft floor-to-ceiling glass windows, gradient of neutral and timeless colour palette and prominent white marble throughout the space.

3013727Marrying the traditional elements of its local destination and chic modernity, the club interior features a treasure trove of ‘In the Know’ gems for guests to get connected and discover Malaysia’s cultural heritage. Brought to life by Florence Lambert Lee, director of GadisManis Malaysia, guests will be inspired by oversized “Terima Kasih” hand painted portraits of three ladies representing the different races in Malaysia, “Pua Kumbu” original piece dyed woven from Sarawak, “Wayang Kulit” wall etching a Malaysian tale through the traditional art and other complementary pieces in the lounge.

Revealed behind the reception counter overlooking a glowing multi-coloured jellyfish aquarium, Club InterContinental experiences include benefits such as gastronomic indulgence of international and Malaysian delicacies at the daily buffet breakfast, afternoon tea and cocktail hour, complimentary high speed Internet, local calls, daily laundry or pressing, usage of boardroom, and late check-out.


Nothing fishy about authentic British chippy

Surviving through two world wars and sustaining millions during economic downturns, the “authentic” version of this more than 150-year-old dish finally finds its way into our shores 

Personally, I find that any restaurant operator that openly shouts out that they are the “best of” whatever it serves makes it extremely tough on themselves, particularly when you are a newcomer to the marketplace

UnionJack-jan2015-0009Hence, when I came across Union Jacks’ declaration of being the “best of British fish and chips” boldly inked onto their signboard at their first outlet in Damansara Uptown, there was no hesitation for me to step in to see if they are able to back up the proclamation. It wasn’t because that there was a lack of places serving fish and chips in town; just that those that truly live up to the legendary style and taste of its’ English peer are far and few between.

For the startling few that may not be acquainted with fish and chips – practically a national institution in Britain – it is a traditional English fare, consisting of moist white fish, often cod and haddock, walled in by crisp batter and commonly served with chips and mushy peas on the side.

Nestled between a much-adored Hokkien mee restaurant and several local eateries, the three-month old diner was decked out with an overall interior that mirrors many of the classically neat and uncomplicated fish and chips outlets found within London.

UnionJack-jan2015-0016The “chippy” (as these fish and chips shops are commonly termed in Britain) was adorned with modest wooden dining tables with an antique-like British flag painted on top of each table. Its surrounding plain walls were highlighted by vibrant art pieces embodying the shop’s main menu attraction.

“The shop was designed to be bright, yet simple in terms of interior design with some simple touches to reflect our British concept. The idea was to ensure that the focus will be on our food,” explains Robert Teasdale, managing director of UJ Chippy (Uptown) Sdn Bhd, the operator of Union Jacks in Malaysia.

Zooming in on the food, starting with the main courses, the two-storey outlet’s bestseller is its UJ’s catch-of-the-day (RM16.90) that comes with choice of chips, fries or mashed potatoes, sauce or gravy, baked beans or mushy peas and soft drink. In keeping to its brand claim, I was glad that its signature dish was served with salt and malt vinegar and not mayonnaise and lemon as served up by many other operators.

UnionJack-jan2015-0021The restaurant houses three varieties of fishes, namely pollack, flounder and Pacific cod, all directly imported from Alaska and the South Pacific. Although the flounder fish I had was not exceptional, especially after expectations were raised by the brand’s tagline, the batter was pleasantly crisp and deep fried perfectly.

While I also found the thick-cut chips a tad soggy for my preference, what stood out was its perfectly-textured mash potato, made fresh daily and not one of those widely used powdered varieties.

“To ensure we deliver on our promise of freshness and the best quality possible, we only use the very best potatoes available, which are brought in from Australia. They are peeled and prepared fresh every morning on the premises,” says Teasdale, who hails from Darlington, England and has been in the food and beverage business for over three decades.

If fish is not your thing, there are several other main courses to choose from including tiger prawns (RM26.90), oven-roasted quarter chicken (RM16.90) and traditional sausages (RM19.90). Those looking for a quick bite, can try out the Ciabatta bread sandwich (RM18.90), oven-baked pies (RM24.90) and UJ’s fishcakes (RM16.90).

For lighter options, ideal for a soothing tea-time office break, there is the choice of soup-of-the-day with bread slice, Yorkshire pudding, prawn cocktail, pineapple rings, Mars bar, apple turnover pastry and dessert of the day.

UnionJack-jan2015-0027Not forgetting the kids in tow, Union Jacks’ Under 12’s junior menu comprising of fish nuggets, mini fish cake, chicken tenders, and junior fish fillet will keep your children contented. To wash it all down, the chippy has decided to keep it simple; soft drinks, beer and coffee or tea.

As Teasdale assures that his team are already working on adding more British specialities to their existing menu, he believes that their current line-up has done well to attract workers from the immediate commercial areas as well as residents from the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Located at 111G Jalan SS 21/37, Damansara Utama, the place is opened daily from 11am to 10pm. With an existing seating capacity of 68 people including a private area on the first floor, the outlet also caters to corporate functions as well as private events like birthdays and anniversaries.

UnionJack-jan2015-0018Operating at an average of about 85% of its seating capacity during lunch and dinner hours since it opened in November last year, the management is already working towards introducing more food items to the menu including traditional English breakfast sets and Sunday roast, as well as to expand its reach through delivery services.

The 60-year-old geology degree holder, who previously worked in Hong Kong and Singapore, says: “The plan is to continue introducing more authentic British food to the market, especially dishes that are extremely difficult to find over here. When we first started, we thought that we would get more take-aways and that our base would be expats in KL, but two months on, we discovered that most prefer to dine in and 70% of our customers were locals.”

In terms of business expansion, Teasdale has set his sights on opening a couple more outlets in Klang Valley as well as to commence on its retail business, which he hopes to see Union Jacks’ brand made available at leading supermarkets and retailers across the country.

“The long term idea for Union Jacks is to expand the brand through various revenue models, such as franchising, product development and product retail. It’s not just about opening more stalls along the way, but also to make it easier for Malaysians to buy and enjoy quality British food fare,” he states.

UnionJack-jan2015-0005Although I walked away from the restaurant not completely convinced of it being the “best of British fish and chips”, it was heartening to know that at least there is a decent option for Malaysians to get a taste of authentic British food. What would have made my day would be to have seen the fish and chips served to me wrapped in newspaper, preferably one using a “page three”.

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Catching up on the facts

  • When cooked the authentic way, fish and chips are 100% natural with no added colouring or preservatives.
  • Besides containing less fat and calories than burgers or pizzas, white fish is also a good source of high quality protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, iron, calcium and dietary fibre.
  • There are around 10,000 fish and chip shops all over the United Kingdom, selling 276 million portions of fish and chips each year.

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Ranger runs wild in the city

Housing developers need to start building larger car porches for residential homes judging from the increasing preference for pickups as a family vehicle.    

fordranger-jan2015-0010It was not too long ago when these pickup trucks used to be exclusive to those sun-baked construction-site workers. They would literally jump up onto these colossal grime-covered off-road sloggers, throw their hefty toolbox behind and dive head on towards the hostile muddy terrains these vehicles call home.

That visualisation of a four-wheel-drive vehicle has increasingly changed over the years as more and more families rely on them these days for their family, recreational and daily use. While it evidently remains colossal and tough in appearance, its’ comfort, interior features and capabilities have evolved substantially since.

Leveraging on modern engine technology, passenger comfort and ease of drivability, today’s pickups are equally comfortable ferrying the children around, hitting the shopping mall or accompanying the family for a weekend getaway, as they are if utilised for carrying bulky construction materials or for towing around machineries and other heavy equipment.

fordranger-jan2015-0020Echoing this growing option for car owners is the Ford Ranger 2.2L XLT. Although almost four years on since it was first unveiled to the world, this four-wheel-drive pickup remarkably still manages to preserve its contemporary overall design and balanced exterior. Its most recent tweaks were to incorporate the handy electronic stability programme as well as an added peace of mind for parents with the IsoFix device for child-seat attachment at the back row.

Driven by a 2,198cc commonrail direct injection diesel engine and managed by a 6-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode that enables manual interjection, which I relied on frequently having found the auto gear ratio too distanced between each shift, the truck was perfect for our unfavourable flood-prone city road conditions; very often resembling their off-road counterparts

Though slightly deterred by its unhurried acceleration, I did however found the truck to very responsive when it hit the higher gears. When on the wide and long expressway, I can barely tell the difference between driving a compact SUV and this pickup.

fordranger-jan2015-0002Having conducted this test drive during the recent monsoon season, the Ranger’s 233mm ground clearance and 800mm water wading depth offered plenty of assurance, notably when this vehicle was used by the writer as part of a small aid convoy that assisted in transporting food and other essential items to several communities affected by the floods in Pahang.

For its primary intended purpose of being a workhorse and with a maximum torque of 375Nm at 2,500rpm, it can comfortably handle up to 1,341kg of goods on its back and is capable of towing up to 3,350kg behind it. Alongside handy features like load sensing proportionate valve, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist and hill descent control, the Ranger is clearly designed for serious work

fordranger-jan2015-0018Seated on an 80-litre capacity fuel tank, the truck comes equipped with several features for a more lifestyle touch including auto rain sensing wiper system, electrochromatic inner rear view mirror, cruise control, remote keyless entry and a 4.2” colour display media/entertainment system incorporated with Bluetooth, USB port and voice control. It would have been a tad more impressive if the display console was larger and had more content to display on it.

Putting on the city dweller’s hat, there are a couple of trivial aspects to the car that I found wanting. First off is the comparatively smaller interior cabin space to fit in the whole family and their individual luggage, when equated to the horde of SUVs presently available.

fordranger-jan2015-0015Settled on a child-seat at the back, the hyperactive 2-yeard-old was not able to fully stretch out his legs despite mummy pushing her front seat as far front as possible. As most parents would agree, on an extended journey, an uncomfortable and disgruntled kid is the last thing you need at the back of car.

Possibly just a personal aversion or most likely unfamiliarity with such vehicles, another grouse I had was the distinctive smell and slight clattering emitted from its diesel engine. Adding these mundane whimpers together with the lack of a rear-view reverse camera – vital for such as lofty vehicle – are what prevented me from instantaneously trading in my timeworn jalopy for this RM99,465 ride.

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Chief stays brave and strong

It may be 113-year-old and played a role in two World Wars, but this iconic American two-wheeler is still riding loud and strong into the heart of millions of fans around the globe.

360_Classic_Indian_Red_Final_v06.0001       RedVintageWarehouse-018 Mention the name Indian Motorcycle to most of your office colleagues and very likely you will be greeted with a blank stare followed presumably by questions pertaining to its country of origin. Unless he knows more about fairings, sissy bars, jiffy and binders than the latest football scores, he would likely not be acquainted with one of America’s most legendary and iconic motorcycle brands.

First introduced into the Malaysian market in 2011 by Harmony Fabulous Sdn Bhd, the brand is steeped in history and its’ achievements in racing, engineering and industry innovations are well documented, including being America’s first motorcycle company that rolled out American-made motorcycles featuring innovative chain drives back in 1901, to the introduction of the first V-twin motorcycle in 1907.

BlackClassic 13384Since the early days of having 3,000 employees working on a seven-mile assembly line in the company’s one million sq ft plant in Massachusetts, the brand has endured as many challenges as it has achievements, including several changes in ownership.

Today, under the stable of Polaris Industries Inc, which took on Indian Motorcycle three years ago as a wholly-owned subsidiary, the brand is seeking to reignite the passion for its products. Polaris is a recognised name in the powersports industry in North America and holds more than 350 worldwide patents via designing and manufacturing high quality off-road vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, motorcycles and on-road electric/hybrid powered vehicles.

Polaris first ventured in the bike industry when it unveiled Victory in 1998, becoming the first American motorcycle brand to be designed and manufactured in 50 years. Victory has now become the second-largest seller of heavyweight bikes in the world behind Harley-Davidson.

Indian Motorcycle enthusiasts and collectors have come to associate the brand with expert craftsmanship in producing exquisite, streamlined machines which elude a classic style that is truly timeless. The oldest American motorcycle brand is steadily building its presence over here in our shores as it seeks out new adventurers to add to its global community.

“The extremely high growth rate in the cruiser and superbike segments of the Malaysia market indicates that there is a growing demand for such vehicles.  The last two years alone has seen high double digit growth in this segment,” says Maxime Vandereyken, Asia distribution manager for Polaris Industries Inc.

Maxime Vandereyken_4According to Vandereyken, the current market size for the Malaysian market for the above 500cc range is approximately 5,000 units, while for the easy rider and cruise market sector, Indian Motorcycle holds around 8% to 10% market share. He states that the company has set out to achieve a 10% market share in the above 500cc market segment.

Vandereyken adds: “We have set out to capture the heart, soul and legendary heritage of this iconic American brand and then infuse it with unparalleled design, engineering and state-of-the-art technology. The broad design history of the Indian brand gives the team at Polaris huge latitude. The possibilities are copious for the manufacturing giant, well known for its sixty years of masterful engineering, heartland values and workforce that shares the same values, passions and enthusiasm.”

The brand has unveiled an impressive new line-up that Vandereyken claims is priced at 30% lower than the selling price prior to the acquisition by Polaris. First up is the development of the three 2014 Indian Chiefs, which took the design and engineering team a mere 27 months to develop from the ground. Powering every 2014 Indian Motorcycle is the clean sheet design of the new Thunder Stroke 111 engine offering 111 cubic inches of pavement pounding power.

Details 13751“The team started from scratch and created the ideal engine for the new generation of Indian Motorcycle. It’s smooth, efficient, and powerful. The Thunder Stroke 111 is a 49-degree, air-cooled V-twin with 6-speed overdrive transmission and features unmatched,” highlights Vandereyken,

The Frenchman adds that the brand offers owners the peace-of-mind that comes from over two million miles of on-road, including dyno and on-road evaluation, and test-lab verification plus Polaris’ 60 years of engineering expertise.

The other aspect of the brand is its exclusive community of bikers known as the Indian Motorcycle Riders Group (IRG). The IRG will boast a host of privileges and services, and will form a common platform for riders to meet, socialise, share “war stories”, ride and adventure together. Regular riders, excursions and events, within and outside the country will be organised by the IRG committee, supported by Indian Motorcycle Malaysia and by Indian Motorcycle in the USA.

“The key objective of the IRG is to provide a service upon which riders may depend on for the easy organising of their riding hobby and be in contact with other Indian Motorcycle owners.  The IRG will be part of a worldwide organisation spanning the globe and allows communication and joint activities across borders,” says Vandereyken, adding that the brand is distributed in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Brunei, and will set foot in Singapore and Philippines by year end.

Besides revving up a premium bike, looking good is also another important aspect for thoroughbred bikers. The company is also offering a full range of accessories to support the customising of their rides.

Details 13754“Customising and making the bike a reflection of the rider’s personality has never been easier.  Accessory options include stage 1 mufflers, performance air filters, upgrades to tuning, a range of floorboards and footpegs, hand controls, backrests and sissy-bars,” remarks Vandereyken.

To top it all off, Indian Motorcycles has created an entire range of garments, riding gear, accessories and other collectables, which reflect its branding, style and heritage. He declares: “Emphasis is given to wearability and functionality in all riding gear without compromising on safety and protection. These and stylishly designed garments allow Indian motorcycle owners to wear and display the oldest and most prestigious American motorcycle brand in the world. A clear and obvious distinction that sets Indian motorcycle riders apart from all other “easy-riders” in the world.”

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Malaysian touch to a legend

BlackVintage 7999Established in 2011, Harmony Fabulous Sdn Bhd – a company under the Naza group, which also distributes other motorcycle brands including Harley Davidson, Ducati and Vespa – is currently the sole importer and distributor for the Indian Motorcycle and Victory brand of motorcycles in Malaysia.

Located at Temasya Square in Glenmarie, Shah Alam, its main showroom is a full-fledged 3S service centre manned by a team of sales and technical personnel. Complete with a workshop, parts and accessory options for the full range of Indian Motorcycles, the centre provide customers with maintenance and repair, upgrades, accessorising and a special roadside assist programme available throughout Peninsular Malaysia.

Each Indian Motorcycle is covered by a special five-year warranty programme with unlimited mileage – a first in the industry – as well as a special trade-in confidence programme if a customer decided to upgrade within the first 24 months of ownership. The programme guarantees that the customers are able to trade-in their pre-owned bikes at above market prices, making it easy to upgrade to a better or newer model. The company also has a presence at the Naza World Automall in Petaling Jaya.

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Fresh from the oven

Details 10163In the current 2014 product line-up, Indian Motorcycle has introduced the redesigned Indian Chiefs family – the Indian Chief Classic, the Indian Chief Vintage and the Indian Chieftain, with all three models sharing an identical frame, engine, controls and standard features.

2014 Indian Chief Classic

The new Indian Chief Classic is a pure, powerful cruiser forged from key heritage design elements yet wrapped in advanced design, engineering and technology. It features iconic styling like valanced fenders, rich genuine leather saddle, classic tank-mounted instrumentation, tear-drop fuel tank design, and sculpted and lighted front fender war bonnet.

It comes standard with a host of premium features including endless chrome, keyless ignition, ABS, cruise control, throttle-by-wire, true dual exhaust, high quality chrome laced spoke wheels, brake calliper covers and cast aluminium frame with integrated air intake.

(Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price: RM168,000)

2014 Indian Chief Vintage

The new Indian 2014 Indian Chief Vintage is a soft bagger that takes iconic Indian Motorcycle styling to a whole new level with handcrafted detail and a signature heritage aesthetic. The Indian 2014 Indian Chief Vintage offers top-quality quick release soft-sided leather bags, leather fringe, chrome fender tips, vintage chrome badging on the front fender and a quick-release windshield for easy installation or removal.

It includes the same premium standard features as the Indian Chief Classic and sports the same iconic design elements like valanced fenders, laced wheels, whitewall tires, tank-mounted instrument cluster and extensive chrome finishes throughout.

(Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price: RM178,000)

2014 Indian Chieftain

The first Indian Motorcycle of its kind, the 2014 Indian Chieftain maintains the legendary Indian Chief styling, while taking this progressive machine to new heights with advanced features and premium comfort.

Unlike any Indian Motorcycle ever made, the Chieftain features a fairing with integrated driving lights and its power windshield is an industry-first for a fork-mounted fairing. Standard features include hard saddlebags featuring remote locks and quick-release anchors, a high-output audio system featuring integrated Bluetooth smartphone connectivity and a tire pressure monitoring system.

(Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price: RM188,000)


Royal touch to cruising

By Christopher Tan

Since being casted on the popular 1970s television series The Love Boat, they have made dreams come true for more than 1.7 million people from around the world annually.   

cruise-1Spending a week on a cruise ship is inevitably high on almost everyone’s bucket list. For some peculiar reason, many seem to envision that lazing on a sun-baked deckchair with a glass of freshly peeled pineapple juice while waiting to catch the sunset would be the epitome of a perfect day. For others, it could be the lure of a romantic adventure akin to the movie Titanic.  

Irrespective of what the motives may be, there is definitely something about floating on a cruise liner in the middle of nowhere that continues to draw the crowd. With the Asian and international cruise passenger market growing at an average rate of 14% annually over the past 10 years, Malaysia’s cruise industry is also set to grow with passengers exceeding half a million last year.

“The experience of being on a cruise ship is unlike most other forms of holidays. On a cruise, people are more casual, relaxed and most of all, have the time to meet people from other walks of life to learn and share stories with,” said Diamond Princess’ captain Fabrizio Maresca, aformer Italian Navy coast guard who has skippered several ships in the Princess Cruises fleet over the last 14 years.

Diamond Princess, which was launched in 2004 and recently underwent a USD30 mil (RM97.5 mil) makeover, is part of the 17-strong fleet of Princess Cruises, the third largest cruise line in the world offering more than 150 different itineraries across 300 ports and destinations including Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, Mexico, South America, Australia/New Zealand, Hawaii, Tahiti/French Polynesia, Asia and Africa.

cruise-2Princess Cruises was catapulted to stardom in 1977 when its ship, the Pacific Princess, was cast in a starring role on the popular television show The Love Boat, widely credited with fuelling the expansion of the cruise industry.

Comprising 1,337 passenger cabins including suites with private balconies, family suites, balcony cabins, ocean view cabins and inside cabins, the 18-deck refurbished Diamond Princess is currently homeport in Yokohama, Japan for an extended season of 9-day cruises that include visits to Taiwan, South Korea, Hokkaido, Russia and 15 Japanese ports.

“As Asia offers an unforgettable combination of natural beauty, fascinating culture and colourful history, this is a great way for passengers to enjoy these attractions and to truly engage in all that this region has to offer,” remarked Maresca, during a recent tour of Japan, Korea and Taiwan, which hosted 2,000 passengers including 17 Malaysians.

The new features aboard the ship, which include a 8,800-sq ft bath and garden complex – the largest Japanese bath at sea – and a sushi restaurant, add to the ship’s current impressive array of dining and entertainment facilities including its Movies-Under-the-Stars poolside theatre and The Sanctuary, an exclusive top-deck retreat.

The new Japanese bath area is highlighted by an elegant, open-air Japanese unisex hydro-therapy pool surrounded by shaded lounge chairs and refreshing footbath facilities. Inside, its two separate, gender-segregated sauna and bath with open air skylight and picturesque sea views is a must try. And to help relieve those built up tension in the back and shoulders, the Utaseyu stone bath are the best way to complete the bath experience.

A conversation about cruising would not be complete without the mention of food, yes, plenty of it! The latest addition to Diamond Princess’ wide array of dining conveniences is Kai Sushi, a trendy 66-seater sushi restaurant that serves miso shiro, nigiri sushi, maki sushi, sashimi variety of seafood delights, and as well as different styles of sakes and its signature dessert, matcha ice cream with red bean paste.

For all-day dining – cause of the writer’s inflated waistline – the ship’s buffet area, Horizon Court feature a diverse selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner provisions. There are also action stations for live a la carte cooking and an enticing pastry section. For a more exquisite palate, the classy Italian restaurant Sabatini’s offers a modest but scrumptious menu. 

cruise-3There are numerous eateries on-board to meet the different needs of an international community. Whether it is a quick hot dog at Trident Grill, hot slice of pizza from Prego Pizzeria, sinful ice creams at Sundaes, a soothing pick-me-up over at Wine Bar or an unhurried meal via room service, you will not hear a single whine over food throughout the journey.

“The food is one of the first aspects that passengers look out for when deciding on which cruise to choose. Thus, it is imperative that we have not just a wide selection but also the very best in taste,” explained executive chef Nilo Palma, who has been with Princess Cruises since 2009.

With 21 years of culinary experience behind him and the experience required to manage 210 kitchen staffs comprising 42 nationalities – including two sous chefs from Malaysia – spread out over seven kitchen galleys, Palma finds it more challenging than anything he has done before.

“Preparing the food requirements of 2,000 passengers is an enormous task. We prepare 350kg of beef each day, 1,200kg of chicken daily and 27,000 eggs each week during each voyage,” the chef pointed out, adding that most of the ingredients were brought in from Los Angeles, USA and Yokohama in Japan.

The presence of a large multinational culinary team helps to cater for any specific requests that may arise. Palma said: “The diverse group of cooks and specialities we have allow us to meet almost any demand from our passengers on their taste and diet preferences, such as halal dishes, Asian menu or European-styled food.”

For those that had assumed a long week of boredom of doing nothing but stare at the open sea, how wrong they were. Guest facilities on-board include three swimming pools, eight whirlpools, casino, fitness centre, children playrooms, video arcade, 9-hole putting course, library, art gallery, sports deck, duty-free shops that carry luxury brands such as Omega, Swarovski, Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo, Coach and Ralph Lauren, plus unexpectedly, a wedding chapel!

In fact, a 9-day journey did not seem sufficient to really participate in its host of non-stop activities lined up throughout the day. Daily activities on the ship include morning exercises, treasure hunts, sports competitions, wellness seminars, culinary demonstration, art auctions, photography exhibitions, casino gaming lessons, musical instrument lessons and dance classes.

In terms of entertainment, there are endless varieties of performances, musicals, magic show, concerts and movies to keep everyone happy. There are also activities that are designed for festival periods such as Easter, Christmas and even sports events such as the football World Cup.

“We are the fun people here as our team’s primary role is to provide fun to all passengers here with us,” declared cruise director Warren Smith.

The pleasant former competitive dancer from South Africa who joined the group in 2008 said that the biggest challenge for his team was to ensure that perfect execution on the timing of all shows, events and activities planned.

“This is crucial not just so that we are able to meet the schedule of each day’s packed events and to make sure that everything takes place, but also to help keep the passenger flow moving throughout the boat daily,” said Smith.

His entertainment team comprises more than 100 members including musicians, performers and technical support crew. It even has its own orchestra on board to support the distinctive production shows at the 870-seater theatre.

“Each production cost around US$1.5 mil to produce including performers fees, equipment and licensing fees. Amongst the favourites shows include Born To Be Wild, Piano Man and Do You Wanna Dance, which are always packed,” Smith said.

After all that energy-sapping activities and pulsating shows, a tad of pampering at the well-furnished spa over a comprehensive assortment of hair and facial treatments, acupuncture, detox programmes, massages and grooming services is the perfect finale to the day and to rejuvenate yourself for the next day’s thrills.

Now that the writer has scratched off “Recreate the Leonardo DiCaprio pose at the bow of a ship” from his own bucket list, he is already working on improving his drawing skills as he eyes “Do a Kate Winslet-like sketch on a cruise ship” on the same list.

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Malaysia, ship ahoy!

Princess Cruises is responding to the vast potential of the Malaysian and Southeast Asian cruise market by introducing the largest deployment ever by a premium cruise line in the region, bringing the Sapphire Princess to Southeast Asia for a 4-month season from November 2014 to February 2015.

The itineraries, running from three to 11 days, covers seven countries and 16 ports in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Brunei. This includes a 3-day Straits of Malacca trip calling at Penang and Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang) and a 4-day Malaysia trip calling at Penang, Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang). Others include a 5-day Thailand and Malaysia trip and a 10-day Malaysia and Indonesia trip.

The 116,000-ton Sapphire Princess carries 2,670 passengers and features more than 200 suites and mini-suites with private balconies, spa, dining facilities, shopping boutiques and Internet café among other amenities.


Don’t sabotage your media coverage

The below is an extract of a timely article reflecting what I’ve been shouting out to our local entrepreneurs for the longest time while carrying my duties as a journalist and editor.

Published on Forbes.
com (By Elizabeth MacBride), 13 August 2014

5 Ways Entrepreneurs Sabotage Their Own Media Coverage

I talk to many entrepreneurs and business owners as a journalist. Many are eager for more coverage. Lately, I’ve been speaking with entrepreneurs in emerging markets, who seem to want stories written about their companies even more. But often, entrepreneurs shoot themselves in the foot during the interview or as I ask questions afterwards.

In the interests of better communication and less wasting time, I put together this list of mistakes, sort of a very mini-media training, for entrepreneurs seeking coverage.

Media relations

1. Not sharing numbers.

Numbers mean everything. If you are not prepared to share at least some hard facts about your company, why bother to get in touch? That’s especially true if you are making assertions about your company. If you say you are the largest, by what measure? If you say you are the fastest-growing, by what rate and measured against which competitors? It is routine for privately held companies to share year-over-year revenue figures and, if they are VC-backed and haven’t started generating significant revenue yet, their funding totals and their investors, plus some other number, like the number of trials or customers.

2. Lying. This should be obvious, but: Don’t lie.

I have encountered a handful of outright lies over the years. When I was covering health care as a very young reporter, the CEO of a local hospital used to lie about his competitors, the other hospitals and surgery centers in town. Before I figured out what he was doing, I wasted a lot of time chasing down bad tips he gave me.

3. Obfuscating.

Lying is pretty rare. Obfuscation is common. For instance, entrepreneurs might say they are the leader in a particular market, or introduced a technology. Later, I’ll find out that objective observers think another company deserves the credit. The hubristic claims weren’t out-and-out lies, but they still cause me to mistrust the entrepreneur. At best, it makes me doubt the entrepreneur’s ability to separate truth from ego.

A better approach is to explain why you’re making a claim and add what an objective observer might say about what makes your company different or better. You get a lot of credit for being up front.

4. Hiring public relations people who deliberately stir the pot.

Some PR people are great. They help shape stories, pin executives down and wrangle interviews. Thank you to all of those.

But some, unfortunately, prove their worth to clients — that’s you, entrepreneurs — by creating conflicts with journalists and then solving them. Especially after a story is published, the public relations team will call an executive, flabbergasted at something published in the story. It’s often a minor thing: a word choice that’s not quite in the lexicon the company has decided is best, or a phrase with a debatable meaning.

A PR company that seizes on the issue can argue that it’s a disaster, which leads to the conclusion that you not only need the PR team to call the media outlet, but that you must hire the PR team to manage all of your media relationships for you.

Meanwhile, the PR team is doing a lot of damage to your relationship with the particular reporter and sometimes the media outlet in question. A better approach: If there’s a mistake in a story, tell me. I’ll fix it or make sure it is fixed ASAP. If there’s a nuance I didn’t capture, call me to tell me about it so I can incorporate it into a story next time around.

Journalists don’t need the drama created by public relations companies whose main interest is cementing their own revenue stream in the short term. You don’t, either.

5. Avoiding emails and calls.

If you’re not going to tell me something, just tell me that. It’s a journalist’s job to be persistent, and we will be. But it would be great if you just let us know if there’s something that you don’t want to share, and why. Then we won’t waste time in a fruitless endeavor, and you’ve won appreciation for being straightforward.


OCBC named SME bank of the year

Published in The Star Online (August 8, 2014) 

OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Bhd (OCBC Bank) has been adjudged Malaysia’s SME Bank of the Year by Singapore-based Asian Banking and Finance.

Speaking at the awards ceremony in Singapore recently, Tim Charlton, publisher and editor-in-chief of Asian Banking and Finance said for this year, OCBC Bank performed admirably both in Malaysia and across the region, bagging also the top award for Indonesia and overall Asean SME Bank of the Year title for the fourth year running.

OCBC Bank

“OCBC Bank’s success lay fundamentally in how it uncovered the various lifecycle stages that require varied business solutions. This helped them develop a seamless suite of products and processes that could assist businesses in their growth along their lifecycle.

“The Bank’s key strategies paid off when they were finally able to deepen market share from less than 3% in 2006 to almost 9% last year, grow its total income by 18%, become number one in loans growth, achieve a more than 100% growth in case count from 2012-2013, and reach a high level of employee satisfaction, thereby further entrenching the Bank’s name in the SME scene,” he said.

The winners are judged on their levels of innovation, effectiveness and dynamism to react to changes in the market and take on progressive opportunities. The selection panel comprised judges from KPMG, Deloitte Consulting, Ernst and Young Advisory LLP and Accenture.

OCBC Bank’s Head of Emerging Business, Mr Wong Chee Seng, said the award represented the culmination of years of listening to and addressing the needs of SMEs in Malaysia.

”Winning a prestigious well-known Asian award like this gives us further conviction that we are on the right track in delivering innovative products and services, serving the community effectively and being dynamic when seeking to meet customers’ various lifecycle needs. Living up to the OCBC business proposition of being simple, fast and convenient also means acknowledging a continuous commitment to positive changes in SME markets and regulations,” he said.

Wong says he expects the Bank progress with the SME industry to grow exponentially in time to come. We would like to play our part in the government’s plan for SMEs as a significant contributor to the country’s economic growth,” he said.